A BlackBerry without a keyboard just isn’t the same

BlackBerry DTEK60

BlackBerry’s story over the past decade has been an interesting one. Exactly ten years ago, BlackBerry was still in its prime as uncertainly surrounded how well Apple’s iPhone would sell. Even in the uncertainty of Apple’s success at the time, however, BlackBerry was still a reliable choice whether it was for business or personal use. In fact, it was hard to imagine what a world without BlackBerry might look like.

We know now, though: iPhones aplenty, Androids amok, and seldom a BlackBerry in sight.

Yet, despite its decline in popularity over the years, the brand manages to live on. Not through its own platform, as it once did, but rather with the help of the Android operating system. Even the overhead companies have changed from BlackBerry to TCL. Really, the only things making modern-day BlackBerry phones unique are the signature physical keyboards, an affinity for security, and certain interface features like BlackBerry Hub.

As short as that list is, the physical keyboard aspect really makes two BlackBerry devices stand out from an endless supply of all-touchscreen devices: the Priv and the KEYone. The BlackBerry Priv was the first BlackBerry device to run on Android and had a unique take on the physical keyboard in the sense that it slid out vertically, which is not something you see in smartphones that feature a large 5.4-inch display like the Priv does. The KEYone takes on a more traditional form factor with the candybar-style design, but also uses a smaller 4.5-inch display.

Those two are without question the most well-known BlackBerry devices in the smartphone industry today, but TCL also released two other BlackBerry devices: the DTEK60 and DTEK50.

Aside from claiming that they were the “world’s most secure smartphones”, the DTEK devices don’t appear to have anything aside from brand appeal that make them very memorable. Even their security claim has been questioned since its release, making both quite forgettable devices despite being otherwise perfectly adequate mid-range Android phones. Still, when a headlining feature isn’t even a verifiable sure thing, it’s a tough sell, especially considering just how many other choices exist now.

So why does any of that matter? Because TCL is gearing up to release another all-touchscreen BlackBerry in the near future, codenamed “Krypton”.

BlackBerry Krypton leak

There isn’t much information about the device other than it looks to be a keyboard-less KEYone, more or less. The camera lens is smaller and there’s only one flash compared to the KEYone, so it doesn’t appear to be a flagship device. Then again, BlackBerry devices never have been renowned for their excellent camera quality. It is possible that the internal specs could still be powerful.

Either way, I’m not sure it matters much. The device is said to be geared towards business users anyway, but even then I wonder how well it will end up doing. Will it end up mostly forgotten, like the DTEK50 and DTEK60, or will there be something to make it stand out?

I think that’s what it mostly boils down to. With so many smartphone options on the market, each phone has to have something that gives it an edge over the competition. BlackBerry once had an entire operating system, the benefit of keeping physical keyboards when everyone else was giving up on them, and a reputation for top-notch security. Only the last one is likely to be a feature of the Krypton, but a promise of heightened security is no longer unique to BlackBerry. Unless it has some other feature to offer, I just don’t see it being a wildly successful device. A BlackBerry without a keyboard is just another smartphone.